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  • The remains of the Spanish galleon San Jose sunk off the Caribbean coast of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

    The remains of the Spanish galleon San Jose sunk off the Caribbean coast of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. | Photo: AFP

Published 5 December 2015

Colombia has announced the discovery of a Spanish ship laden with untold treasures from South America 300 years after it was sunk. 

The remains of a Spanish ship thought to have copious amounts of treasure on board have been discovered off Colombia's Caribbean coast, according to President Juan Manuel Santos.

The San Jose was bound for Spain carrying precious gold, silver, gems and jewelry taken from South American shores when it was sunk by the British in 1708 during the War of the Spanish Succession.

Some 600 people were on board when the boat was attacked.


“Great news: We have found Galleon San Jose! Tomorrow I will give the details in a press conference from Cartagena.”

During a news conference in Colombia’s historic coastal city of Cartagena Saturday, President Santos said that “without a doubt, without room for any doubt, we have found, 307 years after it sank, the San Jose galleon.”

Santos said that the discovery was made last week near the island of Baru by the Colombian Navy and the country’s archaeology institute.

Santos also confirmed that a museum containing the ship’s treasure and artifacts will be constructed in Cartagena after the wreckage is excavated.

The San Jose has been described as the holy grail of shipwrecks by maritime experts due to amount of valuable and rare materials it was carrying when it was downed by British warships.

It is believed to have been transporting 11 million gold coins and jewels, which could equate to billions of U.S. dollars if ever recovered.

In the press conference, Santos didn’t mention the legal dispute between Colombia and Sea Search Armada, a U.S.-based salvage company.

Complications arose in 1981 when the company said it had located the area where the ship sank. The firm and the Colombia government agreed to share the contents of the boat when ultimately discovered – a deal Colombia later backtracked on. In 2011, a U.S. court sided with the government, ruling that it was entitled to keep whatever treasure it found.

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